Sri Lanka Tourism represents at World Tourism Conference – 2016, Penang, Malaysia. “Tourism Delights; Delivering the Unexpected”
Palitha Gurusinghe, President, Sri Lanka Ecotourism Foundation (SLEF) and General Secretary, Asia-Pacific Regional Ecotourism Council (APREC)
Palitha at the World Tourism Conferance-2016, Malaysia
The 4th World Tourism Conference 2016 was held in the historic city of George Town, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Penang, Malaysia from 17th to 19th of October, 2016. The conference brought together the world leaders in tourism, high-level policy makers, and experts from the public and private sector, academics, NGOs, INGOs and world media to exchange and share their experiences, update their knowledge and expand the existing networks for future tourism growth and development. There were more than 750 delegates represented their respective organizations from all over the world. The World Tourism Conference was jointly organized by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture of Malaysia and the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) According to the Concept Note of the event ‘…in line with fascination and delightful charms of the tourism industry, ‘Tourism Delights’ has focused on the diverse offerings and wonderful products in this vibrant and robust sector to cater to tourist needs in the immediate future. It is a well-known fact that the tourists are always in the quest for new experiences and amazing platforms has created to satisfy their imagination and desires based on the latest trends. Hence, ‘Delivering the Unexpected’ will try to answer how successful industry players in fields such as hospitality, aviation and sustainable tourism, created milestones in their successful journey towards fulfilling their customers’ expectations…’ The conference focused on how the tourism sector can capture the hearts and minds of the new generation of connected, well informed and responsible tourists, also the opportunities and challenges in global tourism, how to improve the tourism sector’s socioeconomic contribution in local communities and how to enhance tourism experience and maximize the value of marketing. Many world tourism leaders graced the event including Dr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of World Tourism Organization (UNWTO),, Mr. Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, the Hon. Minister of Tourism and Culture of Malaysia, John Kester, Programme Manager, UNWTO, Gerals Lawless, Chairman, World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), Nina Freysen, President, International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), Dr. Francis Yeoh, Managing Director, YTL Group of Companies, Ms. Aireen Omar, CEO, Air Asia Berhad, Prof. Dr. Amran Hamzah, University Teknologi Malaysia, David Chapman, Director General, World Youth Student and Educational Travel Confederation, Peter Semone, Chairman, PATA Foundation, Jonathan Kim, CEO, Signal Pictures, Ms. Helena Egan, Global Director, TripAdvisor, Dr. Dzahar Mansor, CEO, Asia-Pacific, Microsoft Malaysia and many other imminent speakers. Sri Lanka Tourism was represented by Mr. Malraj Kiriella, Director General, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), Ms. Shirani Weerakoon, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Tourism Developments and Christian Religious Affairs, Palitha Gurusinghe, President, Sri Lanka Ecotourism Foundation (SLEF) and General Secretary, Asia-Pacific Regional Ecotourism Council (APREC) and Ms. Thanuja Muniweera, Assistant Director- Web Master, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau. Delivering the opening remarks at the conference, Dr. Taleb Rifai remarked ‘with 1.8 billion international tourists forecast for 2030, our sector is at crossroads. Markets are growing at unprecedented rates. Technological advancements have given rise to new business models and empowered consumers. What’s more, the time has come for the sector to firmly commit to the Sustainable Development Goals, agreed upon by 193 countries in 2015 to guide our common action to 2030. If our sector is to contribute, we must ensure tourism is a force for the good of people and planet alike. This World Tourism Conference, under the theme ‘Tourism Delights; Delivering the Unexpected’ is dedicated to the mantra ‘Tourists First’ There were many interesting presentations by Ms. Aireen Omar, Air Asia Chief, Prof. Hamzah, Peter Semone, Dr. Mansor, Jackson Pek, Amadeus Asia Pacific. Air Asia CEO enlightened the participants on how to run efficiently a Budget Airline while Prof. Hamza and Semone talked about the importance of Homestay and Ecotourism. Jackson presented an illustrated presentation on how to use internet and social media to promote tourism marketing.
Air Asia Chief explained how the low-cost airline grew since its inception in 1996. She informed the gathering how the heavily-indebted airline in 2001 was turned around to make profits within a few years, in 2006. She informed the delegates that currently Air Asia is the largest airline in Malaysia by fleet size and destinations; AirAsia has been named as the world’s best low cost carrier for 8 years in a row including the latest award for the year 2016. She said the motto of the airline is ‘everybody could fly now’ and contribute immensely in promoting tourism, particularly in the Asia-Pacific Region. Prof. Amran Hamzah made a very interesting presentation on Ecotourism and Home Stay Programmes initiated by the Malaysian Government. He said the government has recognized the tourism industry in Malaysia as an engine for economic, social, political and ecological development, especially in rural areas. The Homestay Program is actively promoted by the Ministry of Tourism as a type of community based tourism in Malaysia. He said the government realized the Home Stay and Ecotourism Programmes as a catalyst for rural community development, particularly from a socio-economic perspective. In Malaysia, the benefits of community based tourism have been further developed through the participation of women, youth and retired people. To realize the potential of the Homestay Program, the Malaysian Rural Tourism Master Plan was formulated in 2001. In the Malaysian Plan (2006-2010), one of the major focuses by the government was on community development and rural tourism. By June 2009, there had been 3,264 participants in 140 Homestays. Recently, the Ministry of Tourism has given the Homestay Program a priority by allocating a total of RM 40 million (US$-10,069,930) to upgrade the infrastructure and facilities in participating villages. Prof. Amran said that the development of the capabilities of local communities is an important component in ensuring the tourism development project benefits them; without supporting the communities in their endeavors, the physical development means nothing to them. If local communities are not equipped to actively participate in tourism, third parties could easily manipulate them, resulting in external domination of tourism development. Therefore, the Malaysian government explores in motivation of local communities involved in the Homestay and Ecotourism Programs, to assure economic and social justification, training etc. towards empowering the local communities. There were a number of complimentary post-conference tours which have been arranged by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture of Malaysia to entertain and educate the delegates. One of the most important post- conference tours was the George Town Heritage Tour. Combined with centuries old three distinct and ancient cultures, indigenous and colonial architecture were the highlights of the Heritage Tour. George Town was founded and built by the British as a free port in the 18th century. This attracted not only traders and merchants but a lot of settlers from the neighboring regions to come to this island to seek employment. The British themselves shipped laborers from India to help in the construction. In the later part of the century, there were waves of immigrants who settled down here, because of the Industrial Revolution in Britain which demanded raw material which was abundant in the neighboring states. All of them brought along their culture and religion from their homelands which were infused into the local scene and also intertwined with each other over the centuries to make the town to what it is today, a multi culture and multiethnic heritage legacy. Thus, George Town has a lot to offer in terms of sightseeing. Even the food, the language and the architectural design of the buildings were influenced by these different ethnic culture and religion. The George Town Heritage Tour was splendid and amazing.
Delegates from Sri Lanka for the World Tourism Conferance,-2016, Malaysia
No-01 Delegates from Sri Lanka From left to right; Ms. Thanuja Muniweera, Assistant Director- Web Master, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Ms. Shirani Weerakoon, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Tourism Developments and Christian Religious Affairs, Mr. Malraj Kiriella, Director General, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), Palitha Gurusinghe, President, Sri Lanka Ecotourism Foundation (SLEF) and General Secretary, Asia-Pacific Regional Ecotourism Council (APREC)